The 2020 Census and the Breaking Down of the Dividing Walls of Hostility

Fundamentally, Christians should align with Christ, and nothing else.

The 2020 Census reveals a story of changing demographics in the United States. It should hardly come as a surprise that the story is diversity. “Over the past 10 years, people who identified as Hispanic, Asian or more than one race accounted for larger shares of the population….”[1]

I suspect we could say the same thing about many a decennial census over the history of the United States. During the history of this country, from one census to another, we can trace the movements of people, including the Spaniards and Portuguese, the English and French, the German, the Irish, the Italian, the African, the Chinese, the Poles, and on and on.

I grew up learning that the United Stated of America is a melting pot. The news of the 2020 Decennial Census is simply the continuation of the same story that is America. It is an uniquely American story, though rhetoric in the 21st Century might suggest otherwise.

The new census may reveal a plot twist of sorts, though: a “pivotal moment”. Whereas the American story of the past was primarily an European story, the plot is tending toward greater diversity. The population of “people of color” are increasingly “younger and growing more rapidly” then their traditional American counterparts with Eurocentric origins.

The population growth since 2010 “was made up entirely of people who identified as Hispanic, Asian, Black or more than one race”. We can speculate on the reasons for this major shift, but the fact remains that people of color are increasingly making up a larger percent of the population, and that trend will surely continue.

My thoughts, as always, turn to the impact on the Body of Christ and how the Church is responding… and should respond… to the times. These times are a changing, crooned Bob Dylan in my youth….. But then, they are always a changing.

Conservative social and political responses in our times reflect resistance to these changes and attempts to stem the tide of change. These efforts are couched in political, philosophical and religious dress. On the side of resistance, we fight to protect “traditional” and religious values. One the side of “progress”, we frame the fight in terms of power nd privilege.

Popular sentiment might assume that Christians are largely on the side of resistance, but the fact is that people of color, especially black and Hispanic people, are as religious (or more religious) than the resisters. The tension doesn’t stop at the borders of political and philosophical differences; it extends into differences in “theology” in the Body of Christ in America.

Cutting through the complexity of the arguments we make “for and against” these changes I see some simple and straightforward biblical themes and mandates that suggest the Church should be more unified than divided in this pivotal moment in American history than we are.

Paul preached that Jesus came to break down “the dividing wall of hostility” between Jews and Gentiles “to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two” and “in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death the hostility”.[2]

We could assume that Paul meant only to speak to the division between Jews and Gentiles. Certainly, he did mean that. We are right to strive to understand the words spoken by men inspired by the Holy Spirit in their original context. The extension of the good news of salvation from the Jews, alone, to the Gentiles is, perhaps, “the” pivotal moment in human history.

Even in Paul’s time, though, this wasn’t really a new story. The theme goes back to Adam and Eve from which all people descend. Sin came into the world through Adam, but salvation and eternal life was brought into the world through Jesus Christ.[3]

This is the fulfillment of the promise that the seed of Eve would crush the head of Satan.[4] Though it was not explicitly part of the promise, we know that the crushing of the power of our Enemy includes redemption of all mankind from sin and death.

I find it interesting as I look back on this ancient story of God’s redemptive plan that part of God’s curse for sin was the rule of man over woman.[5] I did not intend to “go there”, but it’s hard to ignore the division that exists in our time between the sexes. This is another “dividing wall” that Christ abolished, as there is now no male nor female in Christ.[6]

The story took another pivotal turn with Abraham, as God singled out the offspring of Abraham though whom he would bless “all the families of the earth”.[7] God had scattered the people when He confused their languages, but His ultimate redemption plan included blessings to all the families of the earth. That promise to Abraham was also fulfilled in Christ.[8]

Though Paul focused on the division between Jews and Gentiles when he said Jesus broke down the dividing wall of hostility, we see that the theme goes well beyond the first century division between Jews and Gentiles. God’s promise through Eve’s seed was for all the offspring of Eve, “the mother of all the living”.[9] God’s promise through Abraham’s offspring was for all the families of the earth.

God’s promise was to redeem mankind from the curse, that included the rule of men over women, which we know throughout history, continuing through our time includes abuse, oppression and subjugation. Likewise, we see in the history of humanity the abuse, oppression and subjugation of the powerful over the weak representing in the hostility arising from those walls that divide us, whatever they may be – walls that Christ came to break down.

Viewing our present times in the context of history and God’s plan for redemption of mankind suggests that the Body Christ should also be involved in the business of breaking down the dividing walls of hostility. Whether those walls are gender-based, ethnic, racial or political, the Body of Christ, the extension of God’s work on earth, should be aligned with the great work of Christ who is creating in Himself one new humanity and one body, reconciling all people to God through the cross, by which he puts to death the hostility that divides us.

While the world divides along the lines of oppressors and the oppressed, God divides only between the kingdom of God and the world. His power is greatest in weakness. The greatest of those who are aligned with God’s kingdom are servants of all.

Not everyone is aligned with the kingdom of God that is coming and God’s will that is being done on earth as it is in heaven, but the enemies of that redemptive purpose of God are not (or should not be) found in gender, ethnic, racial or political alignments. Jesus, and him crucified, is the cornerstone.

Both the sheep and the goats come clothed in various gender, ethnic, racial and political garb. Many will say in the day of the Lord that they prophesied and healed in the name of Christ, but God will say, “I never knew you!” You were not aligned with me.

Fundamentally, the only alignment that matters is our union with Christ, and nothing else.

Thus, as the composition of the population of the United States tilts increasingly toward diversity, as our melting pot becomes increasingly colorful, the Church in America can and should embrace the diversity. As God works out His redemptive purposes in the world in our times, He is working out His promise of blessing to all the families of the earth. We are on God’s side of history to align with Him over any other form of alignment we might conceive.

“I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.”[10]

[1] Good morning. The 2020 census shows America is changing. We’re looking at how, NY Times, August 13, 2021

[2] Ephesians 2:14-16

[3] Romans 12-21

[4] Genesis 3:15

[5] Genesis 3:16

[6] Galatians 3:28

[7] Genesis 12:1-3

[8] Galatians 3:16

[9] Genesis 3:20

[10] Revelation 7:9

One thought on “The 2020 Census and the Breaking Down of the Dividing Walls of Hostility

  1. One of the divisions you do not address is divisions of language. The Bible says that God caused that division to undermine human pride when our ancestors tried to build a tower to reach to heaven. But we also read that God reversed that division on Pentecost, when the early Church proclaimed the Gospel in all the languages of the people in the streets of Jerusalem. The Church today unites to share the Gospel of Christ in many languages to many peoples and tribes–and that same Gospel unites members of those peoples and tribes into one Church. J.

    Liked by 1 person

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